An Invitation to Self-Reflection | Cody Evans & Heaven Burr’s “Vain and Honest”

By Chelsea Terry

The three panels towered over me as I stood beneath them pondering the significance of the exposed muscle and the golden halos. I suppose saints were human, after all. Yet we forget that, I think. It seems as though saints, in our minds, and within the church, are glorified to the level of Christ. But we’re all human: them and us. Shifting my gaze slightly, the shattered bust of Mary came into view, beautiful and exhilarating like the concept behind it. Cody Evans manages to clearly and sincerely communicate his journey of faith through that one piece alone; the breaking down and the building up of faith is a story that resonates with all who have traveled a similar road to a faith-based relationship with Christ.

Stepping away from the reconstructed Mary, I walk beneath the carpet installation. As I stand beneath this physical and metaphorical rug, I think about the message that Evans is attempting to convey. Issues that are too controversial, too painful to discuss within the church are so often swept under the rug, meant to be hidden from view- out of sight and out of mind. My only wish after experiencing this piece was for redemption; I wanted to emerge from the shadows cast by the rug and experience enlightenment. However, I was disappointed. And yet, maybe that is the point. Enlightenment does not always come; answers are not always available to those who seek them.

While Evan’s deeply spiritual content evokes thought, Burr’s more lighthearted and upbeat collection of clay models and mounted paintings provides the viewer with a refreshing reminder that femininity is beautiful, whether it is expressed in a Tiffany’s Necklace or a Hermés scarf. I walk around a partition to enter Burr’s portion of the show and am confronted by rows of bright colors, patterns and diamonds. Burr’s girlishly labeled doilies pose the ultimate question: Is it ok to enjoy the material side of femininity? Society so often demeans women, deeming them superficial and materialistic for the part they play in this “shallow” world. But honestly, is there a problem with embracing this aspect of femininity, or with feeling good in your clothes, like a “supermodel” even?  I don’t think there is, and Burr doesn’t seem to think so either. Her question lingers in my mind as I continue to view her pink, purple, diamond- and glitter- dominated paintings. The clay creations of designer apparel and accessories are raised neatly upon a podium, reminding me of the glorified nature of fashion. They appear as aspects of Burr’s “wish list,” moving from a pair of Miu Miu heels to a Tiffany’s necklace. I feel confronted by her show; her defense of this so-very-feminine side to womanhood shifts the question to me, forces me, and the rest of her viewers, to have an opinion.   To be vain and to be honest- how does one reconcile the two?

Both Evans’s and Burr’s shows exemplify an unabashed bluntness that provokes viewers into self-reflection. Evans’s use of gold parallels Burr’s; the glitz and the glamour of upscale fashion and merchandising conveys a certain message to consumers in the same way that the church conveys its own message to attendees. Both shows deal with identity – with the exploration of, and the journey to – and we as their audience are privileged to experience for ourselves bits of the journey that they have undergone and relayed to us within their artwork.

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